Category Archives: TV Show Reviews

Enterprise (tv show)

STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE

DETAILS:

Creator:  Rick BermanBrannon Braga
Stars:  Scott BakulaJohn BillingsleyJolene Blalock
Based on: Original Star Trek TV Series

Original Network: UPN
Original Release: September 26, 2001 – May 13, 2005

Worth it?No, unless you want to go back and realize all the flaws with it.!

STORYLINE

A century before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission, Jonathan Archer captains the United Earth ship Enterprise during the early years of Starfleet, leading up to the Earth-Romulan War and the formation of the Federation.

REVIEW

A very big disappointment, but not for the reasons I had ignored watching it the first time around.

Enterprise has good actors, and the occasional great performance, especially from my favorite, Jeffrey Coombs who played the Andorian Shran with an occasional recurrent role. The sets I thought were great, along with the costuming for everyone except T’Pol (which this comes into the problems I have).

The problem comes down to the writing. It is the laziest, sexist, unimaginative writing that I have seen in the Star Trek universe, overall more so then even the first season of ST:NG. The number of rape/assaults that occurred randomly on the show (mostly using mind-melds as the stand in) were fairly common. They even had T’Pol who seems to be the constant recipient of this do it back to someone else. That bothered me a lot.

Then we get into the sexist treatment of T’Pol in general, constant forcing her into those situations, combined with that stupid body fitting outfit she wore, instead of the normal uniform. The ramrod writing of trying to shoehorn her into scenes such as the decon room where they have her sweating and posing sexually while waiting for the decontamination happens.

I also need to point out that there were very few original ideas in the series as well. Instead of taking this opportunity to maybe do something more gritty (maybe on a Babylon 5 level) they instead reworked a lot of episodes (well sometimes not even reworking) from the original series. They also tended to not tell stories linearly, instead starting from the end and going back which is not their strength (stay in your lane).

In addition there was no actual character progression, any progress in a character that was learned in a story disappeared within two more episodes. Not even counting the fact that the behavior of the characters would sometimes be 180 degrees from what they said in other episodes. I wonder if they even had a plot bible, which is a book or data store that records all the personality traits of each character and things that happen to change them, this way multiple writers have the same base character for each of their stories and it allows them to slowly change a character.

Overall the sad writing is what made this show sink for me. I can’t blame the actors at all, they did what they could. It was a chore to finish Season 4.

Pros: The actors worked hard on this and did make it more watchable (especially Jeffrey Coombs).

Cons: The writing was a mess, no permanent progression, no real original ideas, just rehashing old subjects.

Britannia (tv show)

BRITANNIA

DETAILS:

Creator:  Jez ButterworthTom ButterworthJames Richardson
Stars: Eleanor Worthington-CoxDavid MorrisseyKelly Reilly 
Original Network: Sky Atlantic/Amazon
First episode date: January 18, 2018

Worth it? Still undetermined.

STORYLINE

Britannia” is set in A.D. 43, when the Romans invaded Britain led by General Aulus Plautius, who is determined to succeed where Julius Caesar failed and conquer this mythical land on the very end of the Roman Empire. Kerra, daughter of the King of the Cantii, is forced to put her differences with archrival Queen Antedia aside in order to unite the tribes and supposedly magical Druids and face their invaders. But General Aulus carries a secret that threatens to undermine the entire mission.

SEASON 1 BREAKDOWN

I just finished watching the first season of Britannia and I honestly can’t tell you if I like it or not. I go back and forth and it really isn’t even something I can break up into too many pros and cons. That is because it is all so intermixed that there isn’t a clear winner and loser portion.

It is about the Roman invasion of Britannia in 43 AD led by Roman Aulus Plautius. David Morrissey who played the Governor on Walking Dead does well enough, it isn’t him, or it really isn’t any of the actors. They all do well. I suspect instead I have an innate issue with how they changed the history of the event.

It is to be expected they would change it, this is a supernatural historical fantasy version of the invasion. The druids are portrayed as supernatural (the leader being 2000 years old) and living in what most would consider squalor. It just didn’t work for me.

The second part that really bugged me was the references to Rome. It is historically true that Rome (via Julius Caesar) failed to conquer fully Britannia, they did however install a King who was subservient Rome. It was the first time that Rome had utilized the system of client Kingdoms when Caesar enthroned Mandubracius as King. Rome then kept diplomatic and trading links with Britannia until they finally came back in 43AD and invaded to take it fully. Whereas the show acts like Caesar left, the Britannia went on about their lives and never heard of Romans again for 90 years.

I think with my penchant to read a lot of history, precludes me to not liking the show overall. It isn’t that its written badly, just it isn’t true and I can’t really recommend the show to others because of that. I watch too many people believing things are factual because they watched a show that is fiction that I can’t go with this show either.

The Path (tv show)

It should be noted that I have since moved to just updating the original review, this post was originally broken into seasons. I have tried to update further seasons below the intro. Starting with newest and working back.

DETAILS:

Creator: Jessica Goldberg
Stars: Aaron PaulMichelle MonaghanEmma Greenwell
Original Network: Hulu
Series Run: March 30, 2016 – March 28, 2018

OVERALL: It isn’t a bad show, season 2 seemed to wander off though.

STORYLINE

A man who converts to a controversial following suffers from a crisis of faith.

BREAKDOWN BY SEASON

SEASON 2

Worth it? Yes, but only barely

I am beginning to learn that maybe there is something to the “sophomore slump” meaning the second season of a show tends to not hit the same peaks as season 1. That isn’t to say I haven’t like the show, but you can see some changes that should have happened and didn’t and some that didn’t but should have.

I want to say first of all that the acting is just as good, if not better. Aaron Paul is someone a person can identify with even more, Hugh Dancy is becoming more unhinged and the rest just flow together better.

That being said the season was too long. They added three more episodes, but that just made the main point drag way too much. Instead of telling a story the writers had to fill time and that is what made it not as high up on my list. The single biggest plot issue I had was the disappearance of the whole investigating a murder storyline. I realize it is a little bit of a spoiler to say that, but there is absolutely nothing about it in the second season, as if the writers just cut it out completely. Maybe it will come back around in Season 3, but I doubt it.

Pros: Once again Aaron Paul is great, the rest do well in acting. The character and actor for Hawk is just growing on me.

Cons: Sometimes making a longer season doesn’t make the show better. Too much filler means it takes too long to tell the story.

SEASON 1

Worth it? Yes, mostly.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a show about a Aaron Paul and a cult. I put it off watching it because it really isn’t my normal thing. Then one day I needed something to watch and thought I could blow an hour watching it. Now I have been binge watching it. What I didn’t really expect was how interesting it was.

A story about loss of faith, the prison of belief and how to deal with the in and out groups in your life was a lot better show then expected. Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad fame has moved out form his younger sidekick role and he carries the show. He is surrounded by other great actors like Hugh Dancy and Michelle Monaghan.

The show is fairly quick paced as it explores the cult of Meyerism and the issues of that kind of religious dogma and fanatacism. There is a foreboding of Jonestown or Waco in the subtext, along with petrified heirarchy that seems to insinuate itself into the movement. Followed by the search for truth, not only in religious subtext, but also in what is really happening behind the scenes kind of way. Is the movement corrupt, or is it just a few people? All of it makes it interesting for drama, and that is what it is good at.

Pros: Aaron Paul is great, the pacing is fairly quick and it ends at a good point.

Cons: I am unsatisfied yet again with the main female character. They seem to be following down that rabbit hole of a woman who can’t choose, who is unable to make up her mind. Hopefully next season they will fix that.

Shut Eye (tv show)

SHUT EYE

DETAILS:

Creator:Leslie Bohem
Stars:  Jeffrey DonovanKaDee StricklandAngus Sampson
Original Network: Hulu
Original Release: December 7, 2016 – December 6, 2017

OVERALL: Yes, and yes I had a vision it is what you need to see

STORYLINE

Jeffrey Donovan stars in this Hulu-original drama as Charlie Haverford, a scam artist whose future is controlled by Fonso, a single father who runs a psychic empire belonging to the Marks family. Haverford’s wife, Linda (KaDee Strickland), is tired of their mediocre life and yearns for a change. When Charlie suffers a blow to the head at the hands of a client’s angry boyfriend, he begins to see and feel very real and fundamental truths — a big change for a person who had been living a life built on fraud. Isabella Rossellini plays the role of Rita, the Marks’ seductive and sadistic matriarch.

 

REVIEW

It deserved more than two seasons.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a stellar breakthrough in writing, but if you enjoyed Jeffrey Donovan in Burn Notice, you will enjoy this a lot.

Following Charlie Haverford (Donovan) who is a scammer with a small chain of fortune-telling businesses in the greater chunk of Los Angeles. A blow to the head from a client’s angry boyfriend intersects with a hypnosis session while auditioning a new “clairvoyant,” and suddenly, a man whose entire life has been based on fraud begins to see and feel some very real and fundamental truths. 

The show was well written, quirky and both fun and serious at the same time. Jeffrey Donovan was the central hub for the first season and that made it interesting. The second season tried to expand into the subplots with the secondary characters and that is where I think people lost interest. Not enough time on Charlie, too much time on his horrific wife. I did like that there was a scammer/psychic fraud underworld in LA. That was a new twist.

The things I disliked other then the expansion was the way the wife’s character was written, and how Charlie wouldn’t do anything about it. I also disliked that the show portrayed Romani as the illegal underground for psychics. I don’t think it was on purpose, but it played into a lot of stereotypes about Romani, when it looked like they were trying to overcome that.

Pros: Good acting, and a very up on it Jeffrey Donovan made this an interesting show.

Cons: The loss of focus on Charlie, the representation of Romani and especially how horrible they made Charlie’s wife.

Even with all that, I am disappointed there wasn’t a third season.

River (tv show)

RIVER

DETAILS:

Creator: Abi Morgan
Stars:  Stellan SkarsgårdNicola WalkerLesley Manville 
Original Network: BBC One
Original Release:13 October – 17 November 2015

OVERALL: Definitely a good show to watch.

STORYLINE

John River is a brilliant police inspector whose genius lies side-by-side with the fragility of his mind. He is a man haunted by the murder victims whose cases he must lay to rest.

REVIEW

I have watched a lot of police procedurals, and among them several British ones. This is by far the most unique series I have seen, following Inspector River as he looks for his partner’s killer. The twist on this, his partner still talks to him, along with many other victims and/or influences on his life.

The second twist, this isn’t a supernatural show at all. River just has mental issues and his abilities at being a detective manifest that way. It also shows how that mental illness takes a toll, resulting in a downward spiral.

The acting is great with Stellan Skarsgard as the center of the show (yes he is the father of all the young acting Skarsgard including Alexander). His acting is magnificent, and is in direct relation to the decades of acting he has put in. The rest of the cast are spectacular as well with the stars being selected for their acting ability and not because they fit into some weird young Hollywood attractiveness. This is one of the reasons I love British tv, they do have attractive young actors, but their shows starts seem much more relatable, real.

There wasn’t really any negatives I had with it, except of course the short season always throws me off (being American and used to 13-22 episodes a season, 6 episodes is always quick). I truly think though that is where British TV has American TV beat. It is about telling a story, if that only takes four episodes, that is ok. They don’t have to stretch it out to 22 episodes, thus making the show lose both pacing and heart.

Pros: In the top three for cop shows I have seen, and just a generally great series.

Cons: The fact there is no confirmed season 2, although honestly it might be good to leave it finished as an excellent show.

 

Mad Dogs (tv show)

mad-dogs

MAD DOGS

DETAILS:

Creator: Cris Cole
Stars:  Ben ChaplinMichael ImperioliRomany Malco 
Original Network: Amazon
Original Release: January 15, 2015 – January 22, 2016

OVERALL: A surprisingly good story.

STORYLINE

A group of 40-something friends get together in Belize for an early retirement party that turns into a nightmare of lies, deception, and murder.

REVIEW

Mad Dogs was given a single season before Amazon decided to not renew. While I did like the show, it is probably for the best.

A pretty dark comedy that is following 4 forty-somethings who go down to Belize for a reunion that evolves into a nightmare of lies, deception, and murder. Based on a British show of the same name.

Overall the people were pretty good in it, Billy Zane (of a dozen movies including The Phantom) and Michael Imperioli (of Sopranos) were the ones I specifically recognized and were my favorite characters in the show. 

It was an entertaining show, each of the ten episodes they would make the absolute worst choice, people would die, strange people would wander into the show (one example, a little person dressed in a cat mask). Unlike a lot of other shows like this, it didn’t let itself get too dark either.

The biggest problem was ten episodes was too long for the situation. The original British show (which I hear one of the other actors in this Mad Dogs played the Billy Zane part in the original) was four episodes the first season (and two additional seasons for a total of 10). Meaning this season was two and a half times longer then the British first season and had too much filler.

Pros: Funny and surprising regularly with decent acting.

Cons: The material isn’t enough for ten episodes, they should have cut it down a bit.

Maybe I will try the British version now.

Deadwood (Entire Series)

DEADWOOD

DETAILS:

Creator:  David Milch
Stars:  Timothy OlyphantIan McShaneMolly Parker 
Based on: Original Star Trek TV Series

Original Network: HBO
Original Release: March 21, 2004 – August 27, 2006

Worth it?  Yes, this is a mandatory series everyone should watch..

STORYLINE

A show set in the late 1800s, revolving around the characters of Deadwood, South Dakota; a town of deep corruption and crime.

REVIEW

This is for the whole series.

I really do wish the series lasted more then three years, but then again maybe it would have declined and been a mockery of itself if it had.

Set in the town of Deadwood in 1876 where it tells the tale of the town going from open frontier with gold strikes, and how the people living there got along. Fun side note, many of the characters in the series were there in real life (and by default are real people).

No, it isn’t a documentary, yes it is full of violence and sex (and let’s be honest, it doesn’t stay too close to the truth either). It starts with following Timothy Olyphant (of Justified fame) as he arrives in town. Then it truly becomes a full ensemble cast with Brad Dourif playing the Doc, Ian McShane playing Al Swearengen, Molly Parker as Alma Garrett and even Keith Carradine as the doomed Wild Bill Hickok.

There are a ton of other famous or semi-famous actors and actresses you will see, but there are so many I can’t really list them all.

The show is as good as it sounds. The acting is superb. By the third season the actors play off each other with just a word or a motion. There was so much put into each character that you could read what they were thinking and they could sometimes have conversations with each other that were in depth without more then a few words.

The filming was good, and the direction as well obviously. I am saddened that so many people have not seen it. I was especially impressed that rape didn’t play a bigger role, after all that is what most westerns are unfortunately built upon. Not saying that some things didn’t happen, but for what the show was (the Sopranos in the old west) it stayed away from that most of the time.

The only thing I thought hurt the show was bringing in Powers Boothe and his whole crew. Not that there weren’t good stories, and definitely not because of Mr. Boothe (he is great), but it took away from main characters in the beginning. While I started watching the show for Mr. Olyphant, I ended the show with Ian McShane (Swearengen) as my favorite character.

Pros: Great acting, directing, story and sets.

Cons: Perhaps too many secondary stories and plots and too many characters by mid-second season.

Now to find some more Ian McShane work.

The Punisher (tv show)

PUNISHER

DETAILS:

Creator:  Steve Lightfoot
Stars: Jon BernthalAmber Rose RevahEbon Moss-Bachrach
Based on: Marvel Comic Books by the same name

Original Network: Netflix
Original Release: November 17, 2017 – present

Worth it?  Yes, only slightly less good then Jessica Jones

STORYLINE

After the murder of his family, Marine veteran Frank Castle became a vigilante known as “The Punisher” with only one goal in mind, to avenge them.

REVIEW

It is my second favorite Netflix Marvel series, following closely behind Jessica Jones.

Let’s get the basics out of the way. The acting is good, the action is fairly steady with a couple of slow points, the direction seems done well. Overall it sits right about where I had hoped on those points.

The series is unique with Punisher and Jessica Jones (and to a lesser extent Luke Cage)as they all were stories that don’t need to even address they are about superheroes. They would stand up alone as stories without powers (much like this year’s Logan).

Having grown up with Vietnam Vets (who were also outlaw MC members) I saw a lot of PTSD upfront and personal. There were nights of explosive violence, resulting in police, jail and hospital emergency rooms.

Other times I saw them drink themselves stupid, cry and break down.

Mostly I just saw them bury it all inside of themselves, causing them to lose jobs, significant others, and get in trouble with the police. They couldn’t fit back into society, and society didn’t want them.

That connection with the Punisher is what felt real for me. More so then a blind lawyer who fought criminals or much worse some punk rich douchebag filled with so much privilege that he whined about everything. Sure there was gratuitous violence, slow parts, all that. However, the story of a man trying to figure out how to get through after the things he  has done was heart stopping for me.

Pros: Great acting, directing, blah blah blah. Most importantly something I could connect with from my life.

Cons: It did get a bit slow and bloated in the middle.

Sign me up for Season 2.

Banshee (tv show)

BANSHEE

DETAILS:

Creator:  David SchicklerJonathan Tropper
Stars: Antony StarrIvana MilicevicUlrich Thomsen
Based on: Original Star Trek TV Series

Original Network: Cinemax
Original Release: January 11, 2013 – May 20, 2016

Worth it?  Maybe, read the details to see if it is worth it for you.

STORYLINE

An ex-con assumes the identity of a murdered sheriff in the small town of Banshee, Pennsylvania, where he has some unfinished business.

REVIEW

I honestly don’t know where I stand on this show. I do like part of it, but it can be problematic in other areas so its hard to get a solid feeling.

Let’s be honest, this show is a male power fantasy. An ex-con who is a badass prison fighter takes the identity of a sheriff in order to put himself near his old girlfriend and get her to come back to him… after fifteen years. With an Ukrainian mob boss coming after them.

The premise is an old one, but they have some twists in it I like (such as the characters Sugar and Job). The main character “Hood” sleeps with almost everyone (spoiler alert, by season 2 it becomes all).

The first season doesn’t pass the Bechdel test easily. All three women characters (Rebecca, the Amish/bad girl, Ana the ex-girlfriend and Siobhan the deputy) revolve around Hood and I don’t recall in the first season them talking to each other. The only break in the Bechdel test is Ana and her daughter talking, but not sure if that satisfies it for me enough.

I do have to say with this being a Cinemax production that there is a lot of sex that goes with the violence (I think on per episode is the formula). I am surprised though, only one time did it show a woman trying to perform oral sex on the guy and he kind of pushes the woman away, then multiple times it showed a man going down on a woman. That was a very pleasant surprise. Most male power fantasies never show positive sexual interactions for women, but this show does do that.

Other than that, there are some bad ideas… No you aren’t automatically a badass because you are a good prison fighter. Yes, they should eventually figure out you aren’t who you say you are. Oh, and the absolute worst was Ana trying to push away Hood constantly and being fairly horrible to him after he saved her daughter multiple times.

The most negative aspect is the constant attempted sexual assault on women. They don’t ever get away with it, the women (or someone else) usually stops it and gives the assaulters their just desserts. The problem is that its constant and is something the writers reach for every time they want a stressful event for a woman. Bad writing.

Pros: Interesting  story, acting isn’t too bad and the sex scenes are fairly good for a power fantasy.

Cons: Constant use of attempted rape as an event. Lazy writing and too much unbelievableness.

Given all that, I still will watch second season, but from the first episode I am not sure if I will be this generous next review.

Tin Star (tv show)

TIN STAR

DETAILS:
Stars: Tim RothSarah PodemskiChristina Hendricks 
Original Network: Sky Atlantic
Original Release: March 21, 2004 – August 27, 2006

Worth it?  Yes, this is a mandatory series everyone should watch..

STORYLINE

Crime drama set in a mountain town overrun by migrant oil workers.

REVIEW

I really really wanted to like the show, but they just couldn’t get it to work. I will try and avoid any spoilers (which means you won’t get much about the story here).

Tin Star is set in Canada, a former London cop named Jim Worth with a mysterious background who also has an alcohol problem (and a violence problem when he is drinking) moves to Canada to become a small town chief of police. There big oil is moving into the area causing problems along with some problems coming back from London to haunt Jim, resulting in big tragedy.

The actors/actresses are great. You have Tim Roth (Lie to Me, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Christopher Heyerdahl (Stargate, Van Helsing, many other tv shows) all of whom want to do a good job and they have all proven in the past that they are capable.

The issues of the series are the writing and editing/directing. They take the characters too far, make them unbelievable, the situation with Jim Worth is especially unbelievable (not his history, rather that they don’t sack him in the third episode let alone later), and they totally don’t use Hendricks or Heyerdahl at all to their advantage.

All that being said, the editing/direction was way worse. The first several episodes keeps jumping back and forth in time, makes it a bit confusing and doesn’t bring anything to the story. When in doubt, tell the story linearly, the whole back and forth just annoys viewers.

Pros: The actors really were trying.

Cons: Editing, directing, just the whole plot.

Don’t watch it, I definitely won’t catch a season 2 if it happens.

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